What Happened to Delores Dawn?

by - April 29, 2015

"When you hear them - all those stories about the aboriginal girls going missing - that's who they're talking about.  They're talking about her."

What Happened To Delores Dawn? - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
When my mother said those words I felt like I had been living under a rock.  

My father's sister - my aunt - had adopted a beautiful Métis child, called her daughter as she raised her up, only to lose her grip on her in later years - finally declaring her missing.

I don't know my aunt.  We live provinces apart and have never shared life together.  But she is still family and though I don't really know her and never knew her daughter, the truth of the story hits me right in my momma-gut.

What could be worse than not knowing where your child is?

Delores Dawn was last seen on May 13, 2004 on a street corner in Edmonton.  A small woman, timid, dressed in black, looking for a ride.

It was probably the last ride she ever took.

They found her last week in a wooded area near Leduc, identifiable only through dental records, finally bringing closure to the family that spent more than ten years waiting.

What could be worse than knowing your child will never come home?

My heart breaks for my aunt and uncle as they navigate this time of grief.  In a statement to the press they offered a sense of thankfulness - relief that they finally know the truth and can find some closure.

I can't even imagine.  

Of course, a large piece of their hearts knew that she was gone long before evidence made it so - but can you ever really turn off that glimmer of hope, that glimmer that picks at you even when you know it can't possibly be true?

More than a decade of waking up each morning with a wary sense of hopefulness, thinking perhaps this is the day she will come home to you, only to lay your head down at night awash in the freshened grief of those hopes dashed to pieces.

Day in and day out.

What a heavy burden.

And now it's over.  She's really gone.  

Except she's not.  Because a parent never really buries a child, do they?  They gather those memories close to their heart, cherishing every moment of laughter, every tear, every scrapped knee and grade-school award, every single second that defines what it means to be a parent.  They hold onto those through every breath.  They weep on them.  They curl around them and rock them like a lullaby.  They never let go and they never stop loving because love is stronger than death.

Today, my prayer for them - this family I know only through name - is not for joy...not yet...it is that their grief be real, their love held dear, their memories cherished and their hope placed in moving forward...that tomorrow when they wake they don't have to ask the sky, 'is today the day?'...that when they go to bed it is not with a shattered heart but a heart bent on healing...that they never try to erase the scars but that through those scars they honor the memory of the daughter stolen away so that somehow her death will matter in the saving of another.

What happened to Delores Dawn?

We may never know.

What I do know is that the circumstances don't matter.  It doesn't matter what she was doing or where she was or what choices she made with her life.  It only matters that her life was stolen - that lives like her's are being stolen all the time and the only people who can do anything about it are the ones who are left behind.

It's so easy to think of Canada as a place protected from the atrocities of the world.  It's so easy to plead ignorant and naive.  It's so easy to be selfish.  

But there is darkness here, lurking in the places we pretend don't exist and it's only by shining light on them that we can begin to loosen their grip.

CBC News Story
Edmonton Sun Report {with video}
Project KARE - vulnerable persons project

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  1. Brilliantly written, Alanna; sadly heartbreaking. I am so sorry that this happened - and as you say, continues to happen. Thank you for helping to raise awareness and for honouring the memory of your cousin 'whom you never met.' I would love to share this on my social media. People need to hear and be affected by your words. This is not an issue of one certain group of people. This is a statement on our society at large and we need to shine a light on these atrocities, as you say. Well done and again, I am sorry that your family is going through this tough journey.

    1. Thank you Glynis - I would be honored if you shared. Awareness is so important!

  2. AnonymousMay 04, 2015

    Alanna, you probably don't know me but I know Brian Austin well through writing. As a Metis, I might understand a bit of Delores' struggles with identity. Made of two people groups and belonging to neither, it is a lonely walk. Your Aunt and Uncle were wonderful people to have given her a welcoming home. You all will be in my prayers. Blessings.
    Donna Fawcett

    1. Thanks for your comment, Donna, and thank you for your prayers. My Aunt and Uncle certainly are wonderful people for opening their home and their hearts!

  3. That's heartbreaking. But I'm glad she was found.

  4. Thank you, Alanna, for this beautifully written and sensitive piece about this tragic loss to your extended family, highlighting the ugliness that lurks in our society. At the same time, though, grace and love shine in your writing and through your aunt and uncle, and also your family. ~~+~~


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